Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can't buy me love...but you can buy me a new car

My son recently turned 14 which means he is just a very short time away from him being car eligible. My first car was a 1974 Pontiac Ventura that I paid $400 for and then had painted a beautiful metallic blue. (see picture). Really it was a piece of junk and given my non-existent mechanical skills I was certainly no help to make it better but the car did do the job to get me from A to B. The good news also was that it was so bad I did not have to worry about spending extra gas to drive friends around.

Now with the son just a couple of years from car age the dilemma of how to handle this is very much on the family radar. A car payment, $3.50+ a gallon gas and outrageous car insurance has the potential to be a tremendous burden especially with college tuition on the way soon too.

Just the other day I saw a picture of a friend of mine’s daughter standing next to a beautiful brand new Dodge Charger and it got me to thinking about the pros and cons of how a car at 16 is handled by parents. Our son knows and has known for years there is no chance he will get a new car at 16. It is not economically viable for us even if we want to do so and if it can’t be paid for in cash it is out of the question.

I posted a question about this topic on Twitter recently to get some feedback. “Is it wrong to get a new car for a kid on 16th Bday? What do you think?"

Here are some of the responses:

@signs2uOK It’s not wrong if you are trying to compensate for not having a relationship with them, otherwise YES

@megancox I got a new car. Not on my 16th but after & yes my parents now seem crazy for doing that.We lived far outside of town so me having a car helped with driving to practices but I don’t think a new car was wise. I never wrecked though. Ha!

@okcblueyes I think it is wrong in so many ways

@Donaldohse Very wrong. Kid will just abuse it cause they don’t know what it is worth

@sparrowApril for sure, they won’t appreciate if start with a new car. My 1st car 2 years younger than me, 2nd care 2 years older w/AC

@tkmuskrat yup. I won’t be doing that for my kids and I got a beater for my first car. LOL

@ScouterKWC we did what our parents did. Get a part time job, pay for it yourself. They learn a lot of valuable life lessons that way.

@nf8m no one-size-fits-all but in general, what’s given isn’t valued as much as what is earned

@okcholloway huge waste of money. Sign of trying to buy happiness for your child to me. They won’t appreciate it as much as having to work for it.

@okcscouterhurtt a kid’s first car should be at least as old as his or her parent

@cgorshing so much wrongness—don’t know where to start

@_nichole My parents wanted us to have cars…made their lives easier. Not nice cars but safe affordable cars. That being said…I didn’t get a car until I had a parking spot at school which was 6 months later.

This is a great parenting topic for sure. I had a clunker but I also had friends with brand new cars. My concerns with a new car are twofold. Will a 16 appreciate the actual value of the car if she or he had little or no effort to obtain it? Are parents creating an additional family debt burden through the purchase when perhaps the money should be funneled to retirement, debt reduction or college?

Every family has a different point of personal reference when it comes to this topic and of course individual economic situations also play a factor as well as the maturity of the teen.

So….What are your thoughts? Is it wrong to get a new car for a kid on 16th Bday? What do you think?

What parameters do you think parents should set to determine teen car ownership?

Leave a comment here and share your opinion. I would love to see a bit of pro/con debate and I know others will learn from what you have to say.


  1. Dave Ramsey has a great idea. He says if the kid will earn half the cost of what ever vehicle, then he would be ok with matching their amount.(never go in debt for the car)

    We use this with the kids and their toys. If they earn $1 we will match their dollar.

    In the other hand, if my oldest doesn't earn a dime & in turn doesn't get a car that means I am still the chauffeur.

  2. Megan, I hope you don't have more then 2 kids or so.. Because like with Dave Ramsey he says that his oldest only saved up a few grand. Hus youngest has saved up so much more..

    So if that happen to me know that my oldest would save up a lot so I would have to save up a lot too.. But my youngest would save up so much more and that would mean mommy and daddy go broke..

    They can earn a car like I did. Beg grandma to help buy a car and pay for it them self.

  3. So far no one has left a comment giving the pros of a new car. There has got to be someone out there that will speak up. Is it you?

  4. We did buy our oldest a car, but it wasn't a new one. She'll be able to drive it for a couple years, and then my youngest will be old enough do drive and the car will pass down to him. My wife and I felt that having a car allowed my daughter to get herself (and her brother) to and from school and activities, and allow my wife and I to no longer have to play "taxi driver". We found it to be more of a convenience for us than a reward/right for our kids.

    Again, this was a used car, not a new car, and we made our expectations clear - drive safe, drive responsible, let us know where you are and when you'll be home.

    So far it's worked out great, and my wife and I appreciate the free time that's been opened up not having to drive the kids around.

  5. There are definite pros about buying a new car. 1: improved safety, 2: maybe better gas mileage, and 3: possibly cheaper insurance (because of the improved safety of the same model/make).